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Innovative Solutions Could Help Meet Growing Data Storage Demands

We are living in a time when grocery shopping lists automatically load to phones. Parents get alerts each time their children enter and leave the house. Business leaders get real-time updates about their companies' productivity numbers.

As technology continues to evolve — making work and home life more convenient — data storage needs mount.


The more devices people use, the more data storage is needed. All that data will need to be saved somewhere, Microsoft Chief Technical Advisor Dave Crowley said.

“There are billions of devices that are transmitting data,” he said.

Driverless cars. Where are they going to store the data?” he said. “Artificial intelligence. Where is that going to take us?”

Crowley cites all sorts of technology used in everyday environments: Alexa, smart refrigerators that are connected to Nest home systems, hunters using technology to scout for animals.

To meet growing data storage demands, companies are experimenting with innovative solutions.

Microsoft Chief Technical Advisor Dave Crowley

For example, Microsoft’s Project Natick is researching the feasibility of subsea data centers.

Underwater data centers could reduce the cooling costs and close the distance between connected areas. Power could be generated from waves or tides. Submerging data centers under water allows them to be closer to coastal cities that may not have an ideal climate for data storage.

This underwater prototype, about a kilometer off the United States coast in the Pacific Ocean, shows that data centers can be created faster. Rather than constructing a data center on-site — which requires permits — the underwater centers can be manufactured off-site and brought to the location. Each on-land data center requires specific tailoring to meet the needs of the environment and terrain. Underwater containers on the other hand, can be mass produced for the consistent underwater environment.

Cooling will be less expensive and more efficient in these cold underwater environments.

The Project Natick experimental data center was monitored remotely from Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters. No contact was lost, even after it experienced a small tsunami wave. A diver went down and checked on the vessel once a month.


Another unconventional, but promising, data storage solution is artificial DNA, Crowley said.

This method is the process of storing digital data in the base sequence of artificial DNA. 

DNA storage is promising because the data does not need to be cooled, Crowley said. It is extremely dense, allowing for enormous amounts of data to stored in a minuscule space. It also does not degrade, as long as it is stored in a cold, dark location. For example, 60,000-year-old mammoth DNA has been retrieved. Theoretically, data storage could be preserved in DNA the same way.

These data storage solution innovations are just the beginning. With each technological advancement, new data storage demands are created. Crowley does not see that trend changing anytime soon.

Hear more from Crowley and other data center users and experts at Bisnow's Northwest Data Center Conference & Expo on April 25 in Seattle.